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Smithtown to revisit coastal aesthetics policy

Officials from Smithtown -- the first town on Long Island to adopt a local waterfront revitalization program -- plan to update laws governing coastline aesthetics to reflect the times.

Town officials said last week that they need to update regulations on such things as the colors of house exteriors and the size of houses, which have upset some residents who want to expand. The rules also regulate commercial areas along Jericho Turnpike and piers in roughly 14 square miles along the Long Island Sound and Nissequogue River.

The town board unanimously voted Tuesday to allow Smithown Planning Director Frank DeRubeis to apply for a $60,000 state grant, of which the town would have to match about $30,000, to update the waterfront program.

"The plan itself is 25 years old, and it's time to re-examine it," said DeRubeis.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said, "Some of the restrictions in there regarding development have to be changed, because times have changed. . . . Regardless of whether the grant is available or not, we must update" the program.

The revitalization plan established planning and development objectives and programs to promote the beneficial use of coastal resources and avoid impairment of those resources, said Laz Benitez, spokesman for New York Department of State, which administers the program.

The plan's limit on house size aims to curb "visual interference with scenic and wild aspects of coastal and river areas," DeRubeis said.

Councilman Edward Wehrheim said property owners are "all treated differently" about the size of their homes to comply with the program. "Somebody gets a 5,900-square-foot home, consistent [with the program]. . . . Somebody's told, 'No, 3,500 square feet; that's it.' "

DeRubeis said the same formula is used for all homes, but portions of properties located on environmentally sensitive land are subtracted to calculate the legal lot size.

Vincent Trimarco Sr., a Smithtown attorney, said he has two clients who want to demolish old homes and build new homes on their lots, but are restricted.

"You have a piece of property that's worth $1 million," he said. "You're not going to build a 3,500-square-foot house, because it doesn't make economic sense to do it for resale value or for your own benefit. . . . You can't just say the law's the law, maybe you have to change it."

DeRubeis said new regulations may address whether larger houses will be permitted when architectural elements are used to "better recede a building into a landscape"; whether to permit docks, which were prohibited, to establish a commercial corridor on Route 25 from the Smithtown Bull east to Edgewood Avenue; and to abbreviate the review process.

"The changes that have to be made would benefit some of the people who want to make changes to their residencies," said Councilman Robert Creighton.

"They're being restricted unnecessarily due to an outdated and poorly constructed law," Creighton said.

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